Page last updated at 14:11 GMT, Friday, 26 March 2010

Innospec chemicals firm fined $12.7m in bribery case

Indonesian currency
Indonesian officials were bribed with more than $8.5m

The UK arm of a US chemicals firm has been fined $12.7m (£8.5m) after admitting bribing Indonesian officials.

Innospec paid bribes of more than $8.5m to prolong the use of harmful, lead-based fuel in petrol engine cars.

Judge Lord Justice Thomas at Southwark Crown Court said Innospec's corruption was "systematic and large-scale".

The company called it a "deeply regrettable" chapter in its history and said it had changed procedures to try and ensure it didn't happen again.

Tetraethyl lead fuel additives were phased out in the US and Europe from the 1970s to the 1990s, because of health and environmental concerns, but are still used in piston engine aircraft.

The court's decision followed a controversial transatlantic plea bargain, which the judge criticised as beyond the remit of the UK's Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

The plea agreement followed more than two years of negotiations with the company by the SFO, the US Department of Justice and the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

The deal earmarked $40.2m (£26.3m) as being available for fines and confiscation, about two-thirds of which is expected to go to US authorities.

Judge Lord Justice Thomas said that in the future, prosecuting authorities should not make such deals and that the fine was "wholly inadequate", but he did not want to make the company insolvent.

"I have concluded that the director of the SFO had no power to enter into the arrangements made, and no such arrangements should be made again," he said.

Innospec employs 365 people at its Merseyside plant.



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